ZF Establishes Technology Center for Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity

  • Group expands company-wide AI activities in Saarbrücken and becomes shareholder of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)
  • Strategic partnership with Helmholtz Center for Information Security (CISPA) rounds out the commitment
  • ZF  strategy relies on a network of in-house AI experts and cooperation’s with research institutes and specialists from IT enterprise partnerships

Friedrichshafen / Saarbrücken. ZF is establishing a Technology Center for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cybersecurity in Saarbrücken. As part of a worldwide network, the technology group is already developing AI applications for systems and components as well as for making production and services safer, more intelligent and efficient. With the new “ZF AI & Cybersecurity Center,” ZF will now expand its activities in the area of AI research and will coordinate and control the company’s future AI activities from here. Wolf-Henning Scheider, Chief Executive Officer of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, announced the location for the Technology Center today in the presence of Saarland Minister-President Tobias Hans. Scheider also announced that as a new shareholder of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and strategic partner of the Helmholtz Center for Information Security (CISPA), ZF will cooperate closely with these leading research institutions in the future. This deal is expected to be finalised in the second quarter of 2019 and is subject to formal approval of all current shareholders.

“With the new Technology Center for Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity, we are taking our Group-wide expertise in these key digital technologies to a new level. We are also in close proximity to the most respected research institutions in these disciplines which will strengthen our cooperation,” explained Wolf-Henning Scheider. “We plan to recruit around 100 new, highly qualified people in Saarbrücken – and work with them to drive forward sophisticated developments for new, digitally connected and automated mobility solutions,” continued Scheider.

Two thirds of these 100 specialists based in Saarbrücken will focus on AI, the remaining third will focus on cybersecurity. These new colleagues will complement the more than 300 colleagues worldwide – based at the company’s headquarters for R&D in Friedrichshafen and at other locations in Germany and abroad – that are already developing solutions in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Industry 4.0 and Cybersecurity and use them in products and services. In the future, these activities will be coordinated at the joint “ZF AI & Cybersecurity Center” and supplemented by the latest research and development results to support all ZF divisions worldwide. The objective is to create a common global AI platform for the optimization of existing or development of new applications, products, services and processes.

Minister-President Hans: ZF enriching Saarland

Minister-President Tobias Hans considers the establishment of this first industrial center for AI and cybersecurity in the Saarland region to be a validation of his digitalization policy: "The new ZF center strengthens the Saarland industrial location with thousands of jobs. With this, we build a bridge from Saarland's scientific-technological IT/AI competence to the technological excellence of a worldwide leading automotive supplier company," said Hans. ”The expansion of CISPA to become a worldwide leading competence center for cybersecurity, the DFKI and the automotive-relevant competences of other non-university institutes are proof of the current breakthrough with the establishment of a real excellence cluster for digital automobility. The bundling of scientific-technological excellence and the connection to a world-class company like ZF are the prerequisites for the Saarland being able to directly participate in the supply chain of automotive industrial production also in the future. This is my approach of tackling the economic and technological structural change in the automotive industry that we will pursue further!”

DFKI and CISPA as new strong partners

Saarbrücken, as the location for its new center of competence, is a logical choice for ZF: “Under the banner ‘Digital Saarland,’ the region has become the hub for digitalization, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. We are very pleased that, with DFKI and CISPA, we can bolster our own level of expertise with that of two of the world’s leading research institutions in our partner network,” said Wolf-Henning Scheider.

ZF is thus expanding its international research and development network, consisting of both internal and external AI experts. ZF also has access to AI expertise and specialized development resources through existing partnerships with NVIDIA, Microsoft, Intel Mobileye and through its involvement in development service provider ASAP.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Backes, founding director of CISPA said: “In autonomous systems, the issue of security is more important than ever before, requiring world-class cybersecurity research. That’s because we need to do in-depth research on the security demands that this technology places on us in order to achieve truly trustworthy security guarantees. In the end, this is the only way we can protect the systems from attacks and tampering – and thus strengthen the business location and win people’s confidence in this technology.”

“For several years now, ZF has been an outstanding practical partner for DFKI in the field of Industry 4.0 – both in joint research in national reference projects and as a client for services. We are currently using a DFKI High-Performance Optimization System in a pilot project that supports online version control at the ZF plant in Saarbrücken. ZF provides us with deep, comprehensive insight into the production domain, allowing us to carry out tasks such as certifying the efficiency of AI systems for specific planning tasks. This early grounding in the real world of production is crucial for successfully accelerating demand-oriented research transfer,” said Prof. Dr. Jana Koehler, CEO of DFKI.

AI and cybersecurity belong together

The choice of these two research institutes – DFKI headed by Prof. Dr. Jana Koehler and CISPA with Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Backes as Director – is also based on a crucial fact: ZF’s use of AI, especially around automated driving, requires not only ensuring the safety of road users but also to maximize data privacy and IT security. The company’s own cybersecurity experts work closely with CISPA to safeguard new AI developments and algorithms against cyber-attacks as they are readied for volume production. This also supports, digitally, ZF’s “Vision Zero” –a world with zero emissions and zero road traffic accidents.

AI solutions – indispensable technology for autonomous driving

Artificial intelligence is an essential component for automated driving functions and is indispensable on the path to autonomous driving. Vehicle manufacturers and mobility providers are already benefiting from the scalable, modular and AI-capable central computer product family – ZF ProAI. ProAI RoboThink, the latest model, presented at this year’s CES, is the most powerful supercomputer currently available for automotive applications. As a complete system solution with sensors, actuators and AI, ZF offers automated functions for vehicles of all classes from a single source.

Product development and production benefit from AI

In the future, the team at the new ZF location in Saarbrücken will be more than just the development force for automated driving functions. Whether predictive maintenance for wind power and cable car transmissions, intelligent transmission controls in passenger cars and commercial vehicles or machine learning in product development and production – ZF already uses AI-based functions in a variety of applications.


The “ZF AI & Cybersecurity Center” launches in Saarbrücken (from the left): Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Backes (Founding Director of CISPA), Tobias Hans (Prime Minister of Saarland), Wolf-Henning Scheider (Chief Executive Officer of ZF Friedrichshafen AG), Prof. Dr. Jana Koehler (Chief Executive Officer of DFKI) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster (former Director and CEO of DFKI).

Photo: ZF

Christoph Horn, Head of Corporate Communications,
Phone: +49 7541 77 2705, E-Mail: christoph.horn@zf.com

Thomas Wenzel, Director Corporate Communications, ZF Group
Phone: +49 151 167 164 45, E-Mail: thomas.wenzel@zf.com

Kay Robinson Communications UK
phone: +44 121 506-5316 e-mail: kay.robinson1-contr@zf.com 

ZF Friedrichshafen AG
ZF is a global leader in driveline and chassis technology as well as active and passive safety technology. The company has a global workforce of 146,000 with approximately 230 locations in some 40 countries. In 2017, ZF achieved sales of €36.4 billion. ZF is one of the largest automotive suppliers worldwide.

ZF allows vehicles to see, think and act. The company invests more than six percent of its sales in research and development annually – in particular for the development of efficient and electric drivelines and also in striving for a world without accidents. With its broad portfolio, ZF is advancing mobility and services in the automobile, truck and industrial technology sectors.

For further press information and photos, please visit: www.zf.com


About Us

ZF is a global leader in driveline and chassis technology as well as active and passive safety technology. ZF is one of the largest automotive suppliers worldwide.ZF allows vehicles to see, think and act. With its technologies, the company is striving for Vision Zero – a world of mobility without accidents and emissions. With its broad portfolio, ZF is advancing mobility and services in the automobile, truck and industrial technology sectors.